New York budget deal calls for three NYC-area casinos

Crain's New York Business
New York budget deal calls for three NYC-area casinos
Wild Casino

The New York City area could get as many as three new casinos as a result of the new budget deal reached by Gov. Kathy Hochul and state legislative leaders on Thursday. The budget still needs to be voted on by the full Legislature.

The decision, which was part of the state’s overall funding package, moved up the date of a 2013 voter-approved measure allowing seven new casinos in the state. Four have already been built in upstate New York. The bill language hasn’t come out yet and could always change before it is passed.

Lawmakers plan to approve an initial licensing fee of no less than $500 million, according to a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly because the full language of the terms hasn’t been released. A six-member board will review siting proposals, allowing input from local residents.

Casino operators in the state already pay some of the highest taxes in the nation. Still, some of the biggest names in the casino industry have been scouting locations including Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Hard Rock International.

Although the three winners will be picked by state authorities from among all applicants, two operators are likely to have a leg up on the others, according to Joe Addabbo, the state senator who chairs the committee on racing, gaming and wagering.

MGM Resorts International and Genting Group already operate slot machine parlors at the racetracks in Yonkers and Queens and may be able to get new casinos offering blackjack and other games up and running quickly, creating jobs and tax revenue.

“It’s the most popular hypothetical,” Addabbo said. “People don’t want a lot of new gaming sites.”

While a casino in Manhattan may still face opposition from New Yorkers worried about the crowds, operators have been scouring locations that include Times Square and the East River waterfront across from Brooklyn. Sands has had discussions about a casino near Citi Field in Queens.

Among those pushing for speedy approval was the influential New York Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, the union which represents some 37,000 hotel and casino workers, many of whom still haven’t returned to work due to the pandemic-related travel slump. The union was among the first to endorse Gov. Kathy Hochul for the 2022 governor’s race.